MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Miami didn’t surprise Nebraska’s defense with anything in the Hurricanes’ 36-33 victory Saturday at Sun Life Stadium.
Quarterback Brad Kaaya just found some huge holes in the Husker defense early on. He threw for 226 yards in the first half alone.
“This isn’t really rocket science,” Nebraska coach Mike Riley said. “They’re basically going to try and isolate or fake out underneath coverage on linebacker and try to throw it in behind him.”
Nothing worked for the Huskers in the first quarter. Kaaya drove the Hurricanes right down the field the first two times they had the ball.
The first drive went 65 yards in five plays. The second drive was four plays for 60 yards and the Hurricanes had a quick 14-0 lead.
“Basically, we didn’t execute,” Nebraska junior defensive end Greg McMullen said. “We didn’t do the things we’re supposed to do and we didn’t do the things we do in practice. That obviously hurt us with big plays and helped them get off to a hot start. Looking back I see a lot of things I would have changed. Unfortunately, we can’t.”
McMullen thought the Huskers would be ready. He said the energy level wasn’t a problem.
“This is a game we’d all been pointing toward for a long time,” McMullen said. “The energy level is always going to be there. The adrenaline, the excitement to be out here. Definitely a lot of guys were excited. We didn’t do what we’re supposed to do with the defense and it hurt us.”
Linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey said the Hurricanes had a good game plan, but took the blame on himself.
“They played a great ball game and attacked us right in our weak spots,” Rose-Ivey said. “I’m disappointed in the way I played and the way I led the team today. I put a lot of that on me. I didn’t come to play. Some guys are a little beat up, some guys have injuries. That’s no excuse, myself included.”
The Huskers did clamp down some as the game went along. Miami had 254 yards in the first half and another 257 in the second, but the Huskers got tough in the red zone.
Miami kicker Michael Badgley was 5-for-5 on field goals, including 3-for-3 in the second half. Five of the Hurricanes last six scores were field goals.
“As the game went on, I appreciate the fact that even at the very end the defense kept them out of the end zone,” Riley said. “A lot. Made them kick field goals.”
Riley said 15 points on field goals is a lot, but it could have been worse.
“That’s a lot of points, but part of that is pretty good, keeping them from scoring touchdowns,” Riley said.
The Hurricanes were 3-for-14 on third-down conversions against the Husker defense. That’s a figure Miami coach Al Golden wants to see improve.
“At the end of the day, we need to improve,” he said. “We weren’t good enough today. We have to keep throwing and catching and practicing. That’s one part of our game we have to continue to focus on here in the next week.”
The Huskers have a lot to focus on, too, but Rose-Ivey wasn’t looking to make any excuses for his team’s performance, whether it was the heat or playing on the road for the first time or whatever.
“Some guys are a little different,” Rose-Ivey said. “Whatever it is, we can’t make excuses. There are 65 teams traveling every week. If we want to be one of those top teams we have to be able to do it.”
It was the second tough loss of the season for the Huskers who dropped the opener to BYU on a Hail Mary. McMullen said they just have to get back at it again in practice as they prepare for Saturday’s game against Southern Miss.
“It leaves a bad taste in my mouth because we lost the BYU game on a Hail Mary play,” McMullen said. “We also lost this game after we fought our way back to tie it up. But you know it’s part of the game. It’s very humbling.”
“It’s disappointing, but tomorrow we’ll look at the film, get better and get ready for Southern Miss.”